Amazon Rainforest at Risk of Turning into a Dry Savanna
Deforestation and climate change have caused the Amazon rainforest to reach a tipping point with 75% of the forest losing stability and resilience in the past two decades, according to a new study in Nature. The rainforest is now more prone to the slower recovery of damaged areas from wildfires or drought and increased dieback. Researchers say the Amazon is now at risk of becoming a dry savannah, which would transform the ecosystem, including its biodiversity and carbon storage capabilities which are essential to its identity and the global climate.
Bloomberg Quicktake: The Brazilian Amazon's Tipping Point May Have Passed the Point of No Return, September 24, 2021.
CBS: A "really big warning" for the planet: Part of Amazon rainforest is emitting more carbon dioxide…, July 15, 2021.
Why This Matters
This is an extremely concerning prediction, not only because of its importance as the world's largest terrestrial carbon sink, but also because of its influence on global weather patterns and heating. A different study in 2021 found that the Amazon is now releasing more carbon than it is absorbing, significantly increasing the rate of warming around the world. The Amazon is losing vegetation faster than ever, and unfortunately, "when [irreversible dieback] will be observable, it would likely be too late to stop it," according to Niklas Boers, a professor of Earth system modeling at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
Conservation International: What on Earth is Irrecoverable Carbon?, March 31, 2021.
Al Jazeera: Has Brazil's Amazon reached a point of no return?, September 23, 2021.
The Continued Fight To Save The Amazon
With news of the Amazon's tipping point, it is important, now more than ever, to prevent deforestation and increased warming. While over 100 countries at the COP26 pledged to end deforestation by 2030, businesses around the world have not made such promises and are actively contributing to deforestation in the Amazon. Even the Brazilian government has been accused of greenwashing, especially since President Bolsonaro has undone years of policy work protecting the Amazon. Fortunately, NGOs and state government agencies in and around Brazil are working to save the rainforest alongside the Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance (LEAF) Coalition and Architecture for REDD+ Transactions (ART). These programs and organizations are the boots on the ground working to protect this precious ecosystem, and they need support and coverage to ensure their success. Consuming products that are sustainably sourced, donating, and talking to elected officials are all small ways to support efforts to end deforestation and prevent the ecosystem conversion of the Amazon.
Forest 500: A climate wake-up: but business failing to hear the alarm on deforestation, January 12, 2022.
Bloomberg Quicktake: The Brazilian Amazon's Tipping Point May Already Be Here, September 28, 2021.
CBS News: Complicit - The Amazon Fires, February 27, 2021.